Cross your fingers: a short story

The sound of the radio wakes
me.  Saturday morning and the
announcer calls out the details of the horses that will be running in the
various race meetings of the day.

I turn over and his pillow is
empty.  A typical Saturday.  I find my man in the kitchen, toast
crumbs on his plate, the newspaper folded to a manageable size. He holds a red
biro in his hand and with it circles the details of each horse and race to
establish where he will put his money. 
His preoccupation with the form guide borders on insult but I do not
take offence.
start the day by loading whites into the washing machine, whites and lights
first, followed by the darks.  When
the basket is full to overflowing I take the clothes out behind the apartment
block and hang out as many as the line can hold.  I try to keep the excess washing to a minimum forcing
clothes together as closely as possible and sharing pegs.  I know it will not speed up the process
of drying but to me there is a certain satisfaction in a full washing line
without a chink of light between the clothes.  Recently there has been an underwear thief in our
neighbourhood.  I do not relish the
thought of some stranger stealing my knickers, worn and un-sexy as they may
be.  I will hang our underwear on
the small clotheshorse that stands on the balcony of our apartment.
man  comes out to say goodbye as I
clip his shirts in order of colour to the washing line.  ‘Wish me luck,’ he says.  I wish him luck and any niggling
feeling of dissatisfaction I tuck away inside the peg bag.  My man provides for me while I am a
student and have very little money of my own.  If my man wins today we might go out to a flash restaurant
and if he loses they may yet turn off our electricity next week because the
bill is still unpaid and long overdue. 
Ours is a tempestuous life but I tell myself I like that.  I thrive on the uncertainty.  Never a dull moment I think as I hang
out the last of the white handkerchiefs.
day goes by quickly enough, floors to mop, the toilet and sink to go over with Ajax.  I do
not dust the surfaces in the bedroom as there is too little furniture in there
beyond the bed to warrant it, but I dust everywhere else and in the kitchen I
wipe down the bench tops and scrub the stove clean with a hard scrubbing
brush.  I drag the vacuum cleaner
from the bedroom to the lounge until my back aches with the effort.  Bend and straighten. This is good exercise
I reason and the rewards are great. 
Soon I will have a house that is spick and span, my man will come home,
and we will be able to relax in the comfort of a clean home.  I cross my fingers and hope for a win.
man has devised a system whereby he can maximise his returns.  He is ruthless.  He does not become emotionally involved
with the horses. They generate an income that is all.  Twilight and I hear the clip of his heels in the stair
well.  The door rattles open.  The look on his face tells all.  We do not say a word but crawl into bed
for a coupling that offers comfort to both.  He for his day on the job and me for my domesticity.  Afterwards we will decide what to do
for dinner. 

It makes me cold to look at you

I have a small nick on the tip of
my finger which hurts whenever I press it down on the keys.  I helped one of my daughters to pack up
the contents of her house the other night and made the wound worse.  The dry blackness of newspaper ink
seeped into the cut as I wrapped up her drink glasses one after another and laid them
out in a box.
I hope the glasses make the journey
safely today.  I will help to unwrap
them at the other end this afternoon, once the removalists have carried all the
boxes from one suburb to the next. 
My daughter is not moving far, at least not geographically but
emotionally it’s a huge move, as moves tend to be. 
Another of my daughters took a look
at my desk the other day, strewn as it is with papers and books.
‘It makes me giddy just to look at
Her words resonate with my mother’s
words.  When I was a child and refused
to wear a jumper even on the coldest of days she said to me repeatedly as I
remember ‘It makes me cold to look at you.’  I wondered then how my lack of clothing could so affect my
mother as she pulled her thick cardigan around her shoulders and shivered.
 How easy it is for us to affect one another.  Even a glance, a scrunching of eyebrows
a wrinkling of the forehead can say a thousand words and leave the person on the
receiving end in paroxysms of despair. 
That is when we know one another well. 
But even when we don’t know one
another well, looks can still kill. 
A car pulled in front of me the
other day.  I had not noticed the
car there on my left in two thick lanes of traffic until it had pulled in front of
me.  I held back to let the driver
in.  I saw his window go down and
his arm shoot out.  I had expected
a wave of acknowledgement. 
‘Thanks,’ he might have gestured,
but no.  He gave me the bird.  That’s the expression people use when
someone points up their rude finger. 
Their rude finger, their index. 
It did not shock me so much as
puzzle me.  What had I done
wrong?  Why had I offended
him?  I assumed it was a him.  The arm looked like a his but it may
have been a hers, her index finger, her offence. 
It matters little in the scheme of
things.  It matters to me a little
less than the way I felt on another day when I had pulled out in front of another car ahead and momentarily blocked the path of an on coming car – nothing
dangerous, everything in slow motion – 
at the junction in Camberwell, and the person driving the car coming
towards me, which did not in fact need to slow down much before approaching my
car, wound down his window – again it was a he   – and spat a great gob of whatever
onto my wind screen. 
There’s something shocking about being
spat at, however much I might have deserved a reprimand.  This one got under my skin such that I
cannot forget. 
On another note, I’m getting cold
feet on the Keiser training.  To
think I’d need to do this exercise twice weekly for the next however many years
puts me off. 
On the other hand, is it so
And on the other hand, it’s
On the other hand, how might I feel
in the long run when I no longer need to carry around my burden of guilt for
neglecting my crumbling bones?
At least I have managed to get a
bandage onto my wounded index finger. 
It no longer hurts to type. 
If only other wounds were always so easily